WHILE straightening her desk for the new year, Miss Manners came across a drawer containing answers to which she has had no questions. She simply must get rid of them, so here is some information that nobody has ever requested:
There is no known correct way to eat pistachio nuts. Nevertheless, they are delicious. The pistachio nut must therefore be Nature's way of teaching us self-control. If so, it doesn't work.
It is wrong to wear diamond before luncheon, except on one's marriage rings. Before, after and during breakfast, luncheon and dinner, it is vulgar to wear a mixture of colored precious stones. It is always a comfort to know that so many things one can't afford to do anyway are vulgar.
"The numbers at a dinner should not be less than the Graces, nor more than the Muses," states an old formula. If the Graces are busy, you could try the Fates, who are not asked out as often.
"Your Good Friend" is the letter closing used not only by sweet, old-fashioned children but by kings and queens when they write to presidents.
It is incorrect to wear a wristwatch in the evening, because it suggests that one does not expect to enjoy oneself enough to forget the time. It is incorrect to fail to leave a dinner party by 11 p.m.
An official speech made in front of the queen of England should begin, "May it please Your Majesty," but one should not expect reassurance at the end that it has.
Restaurants are not exempt from the rule that one never puts a filled plate, but offers platters from which the person can serve himself. However, there are no restaurants in the United States that realize this.
The only circumstances under which a lady can properly call upon a gentleman are if he is old and ill and has requested the visit. Whether or not he is rich is irrelevent, but it never hurts.
If you habitually travel with a valet or maid, it is necessary to ascertain beforehand that your hosts will be able to accommodate extra servants.
A lady and gentleman who pay a call and find no one at home leave three cards -- one of hers and two of his. Hers is for the lady of the house and one of his is for the lady and one for the gentleman. If this seems excessive, they can just go away and deny having ever been there.
An introduction made at a ball, for the prupose of forming couples to dance, does not count later. While other formal rules are going out of use, this one is actually being expanded. There are many instances nowadays of people who have been briefly in each other's arms but do not afterwards recognize each other socially.
The title by which a sovereign is addressed is called his petit titre, but he may also have a grand titre and a titre moyen. The grand titre may include "the names of the fictitious as well as of the real dominions" he claims, which is to say that he can slip in all the places he used to have or thinks he is entitled to have. The moyen titre may be fairly long, but it is expected to be truthful.
The wide-tined fork is considered a more correct implement for eating ice cream than is the spoon, although the spoon is not actually incorrect. This leeway is permitted because any fool can see that ice cream will drip through fork tines, however wide. MISS MANNERS RESPONDS
Q. My husband is a vegetarian. I am not. When we are invited to dine at the home of friends, I maintain that my husband should inform our host-to-be that he does not eat meat. I know that when I entertain, I am always disappointed to learn that a guest cannot eat what I have prepared when it is too late to do anything about it. My husband, on the other hand, is perfectly happy to eat salad, bread and any vegetable, and does not like to have people feel that they need to go out of their way to alter the menu on his behalf; he feels that if he tells them that he is a vegetarian, they will feel obliged to accommodate him. What is the socially correct thing to do?
A. The socially correct thing for a guest to do is to be perfecly happy eating salad, bread and any vegetable; the socially correct thing for a host to do is to refrain from being disappointed when a guest does not, for any reason, consume everything that is offered.
Q. I enclose herewith the text of a recently received thank-you note, and wonder what you think of the bride's forthright frankness. Do you consider this the nouvelles mercis?
Dear friends: Thank you so much for the beautiful vase. Unfortunately, it was the 7th one we received, so we did want you to know -- and we hope you won't mind -- that we exchanged it in order to complete our china pattern.
We send our love to you, etc.
A. It isn't the bride's frankness that worries Miss Manners -- it's her brain. If one has seven vases, it should not be difficult to figure out how to exchange six of them, while letting the seventh represent, to each of the seven donors, the one that was kept. Miss Manners hopes that this couple is not planning to have children.
Q. Eight months ago, I wrote to my first cousin's wife, asking her to play the organ during my wedding. She replied that she would be happy to, and that she only requests a babysitter for her daughter. Now, four weeks before the wedding, she called stating how all the music was set, and that her usual fee for the service would be to pay for her flight to the Midwest. If this cost was to be too expensive, and if I was able to find a less expensive local organist, she would understand.
I responded with a letter, stating that I had never intended her as only a participant, but as a welcome guest at the wedding. Furthermore, as the distance was so great, I would not have asked her for that sole purpose. Furthermore, I was able to contact a local organist, so if she wished to come, to please come as a guest only. Also, I apologized for the misunderstanding. Was this the correct thing to do?
A. Indeed it was, and Miss Manners trusts that you have learned from the experience, never to ask your guests to donate their professional services. Now please tell your photographer friend just to come as a guest and have a good time, because you have hired someone to take the pictures.
Q. A few weeks ago, my daughter and I stopped after a very hectic day into a neighborhood Chinese restaurant for a quiet, simple dinner. As we relaxed with our tea and gave our order for dinner, a very noisy four-some entered the small establishment and destroyed the atmosphere. As their loud talking and laughter continued, my daughter and I became more and more annoyed. A suggestion to our waitress that perhaps the noisy group would be requested to quiet down was ignored with a shy smile.
Being determined to salvage some peace and quiet to enjoy our own conversation, we finally decided to ask the table of loud-mouths to lessen the din. I was afraid, however, that Miss Manners would consider this more illbread than the rudeness of inconsideration. As I pondered the situation, my daughter walked across the room and made a polite request that perhaps the volume of conversation be lowered, as we were not interested in sharing the information and humor being related at their table, and we were sitting as far away as the size of the dining room allowed. We hated to have to leave on their account, so could they please quiet down. It worked, but I hope our actions were not more gauche than the offenders.
A. As we are talking about a Chinese restaurant, Miss Manners would like to offer you some of both. Reassurance: It was acceptable to politely ask the people to be quieter. Criticism: It was not necessaary to critique their information and humor.